History of the NFL on Thanksgiving (Originally Published Nov. 05)
Oh boy the season of giving is upon us and your Uncle Buck could not be happier. Thanksgiving might just be the greatest holiday of the year, and one thing that makes it so great is NFL football. With the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys hosting the annual games again this year, UB takes a look at the history of the "Turkey Bowls."
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first pro Thanksgiving games took place on November 25, 1920. There were six games, including one team from Detroit. The first time a current NFL team played in a pro thanksgiving game was when the Chicago Bears were shut out 6-0 by the Chicago Cardinals. The Chicago Cardinals would later move to St. Louis and then Arizona. The first time the Detroit Lions took place in a Thanksgiving game was their 1st year in the NFL, 1934. The Lions lost to the Bears 19-16. The next year the Lions beat the Bears 14-2 (above).
From 1952-1963 the NFL Thanksgiving day game was between the Lions and the Green Bay Packers. (The Dallas Texans and Bears also played in 1952.) The Lions went 10-3 in those games.
Dallas entered the Turkey Day picture in 1962 when the Texans took on the Bears, in Akron, Ohio. The Dallas Cowboys (Left, who beat the Lions 20-7 on Sunday) began taking part in 1966, defeating the Cleveland Browns 26-14. The AFL had their own Turkey Day games beginning in 1960, but after the merge in 1970 Thanksgiving Day belonged to the Lions and Cowboys. In 1975 the Cowboys did not play, instead the Buffalo Bills beat the St. Louis Cardinals 32-14. The Cowboys returned to defeat the Cardinals a year later, but in 1977 the Cardinals were blasted by the Miami Dolphins 55-14. The Cowboys returned for good in 1978, defeating the Redskins 37-10. The Cowboys and Lions have never met on Thanksgiving.
What about UB's beloved Patriots on Thanksgiving, you may ask...well...The Patriots didn't join the AFL until 1960 and didn't play on Turkey Day until 1984, but in 1946 the Boston Yanks defeated the Lions 34-10. It was Boston's 1st Thanksgiving game, however, New England was represented for years by the Providence Steam Roller, which had been playing in Turkey Day games since 1926.
In 1984, the New England Patriots made their 1st appearance, losing to the Cowboys 20-17. In 2000 the Patriots got their butts handed to them 34-9 in Detroit, but returned the favor in 2002, beating the Lions 20-12 (above).
The NFL has made the throwback look a tradition at the Thanksgiving games. In 2002 the Patriots returned to the "Pat Patriot" look (above) in their win over the Lions.
UB's favorite Turkey Day game involving the Cowboys happened in 1993, when Leon Lett's blunder gave the hated Miami Dolphins a 16-14 win. First there was a rare snowstorm in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, allowing the powder to get through the partially open roof of Texas Stadium and on to the field. Lett, who had a Pro Bowl career, became the goat when after the Cowboys blocked a Pete Stoyanovich field-goal attempt, trailing by one. All the Cowboys had to do was stay away from the ball and they could run out the clock. The ball skipped to the Dallas 7-yard-line when Lett attempted to pick up the ball. The dope instead slid through the snow into it. When he touched the ball, it became live once again, and Miami's Jeff Dellenbach picked it up with three seconds left. Given the second chance, Stoyanovich hammered home the game-winning points.
UB's favorite Lions moment on Thanksgiving (not counting watching the amazing Barry Sanders or the Patriots 2002 win) was watching the hated Pittsburgh Steelers get screwed by the officials during the overtime coin toss in 1998. After the Lions had rallied from a 13-3 third-quarter deficit to force overtime, the captains from Detroit and Pittsburgh met at midfield to begin the process of deciding matters in sudden death. As referee Phil Luckett tossed the coin in the air, controversy ensued. The coin came up tails and it appeared at first to fans watching on CBS that Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis had called it accurately. But closer examination revealed that there may have been a second Steeler quietly said "heads." After some arguments the Lions took the ball and went right down the field to convert on a game winning field goal. The incident restarted talk of changing the over time rules, however, no change was ever made on the first to score wins rule.
This Thursday the Lions take on the Atlanta Falcons and the Cowboys host the Denver Broncos. The Lions are 33-30-2 in 64 Thanksgiving Games. In 37 Thanksgiving games the Cowboys are 23-13-1. UB will be watching...Gobble, Gobble...